Serious Eats: Talk
Muskrat, Part II
So, there is in fact a reason that Muskrat isn't commonly available.
I really had high hopes. especially when i was looking at it up close, it's a really pretty, dark, fine grained meat. I figured a nice long braise in red wine, broth, root vegetables, bouquet garni, what could go wrong...
when we sat down to eat it, I noticed a couple of things. At first, i thought my braising liquid was bad, I thought I'd made a mistake somewhere. it tasted rancid, or something. Not really rancid, just somehow off, in a way that was unfamiliarly bad. the meat itself wasn't very good either, but the thicker pieces didn't taste as bad as the thinner pieces. That is, the pieces where there was more meat and less surface area for the foul-tasting braising liquid tasted better. In fact, the thighs didn't taste toooooo bad. It's just that by the time i got around to trying a thigh i was more or less done with eating the thing. Anyway, I'd read online that "ol' timers" sometimes let them soak in saltwater for a couple of hours before cooking them, or sometimes even parboil them before cooking (what these recipes typically DONT tell you is why they do that, and I sort of just assumed it was to soften the meat up a bit, so I figured a nice long braise would overcome that problem). And what i'm thinking now is you do that do draw out the bad taste from the meat. I think the reason the braising liquid tasted so bad was not because it was bad braising liquid (wine and broth?) but because it absorbed all the bad flavors. So if I were ever forced to do it again, that's what i'd do. i'd probably parboil them in salted water, then chuck the water, wash them, and then braise them. or even grill them. Or something. maybe hold my nose and hope.
So if you're going to Baltimore, Lexington market, and you still have some time--they're in season 'till March, I think!!!
BTW, they have really long teeth. The carcasses are not for the faint of heart.